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One step closer: UTHealth vaccinating front-line employees with Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine

Published: December 24, 2020 by Office of Public Affairs, UTHealth

Vial of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.
UTHealth is in the process of inoculating its frontline workers. Photo credit: Maricruz Kwon/UTHealth.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine and is in the process of inoculating its front-line workers.

Members of the UTHealth community have started to receive the first dose of the vaccine, based on guidance from federal and state agencies. The university has the ability to vaccinate up to 600 employees and students per day, depending on the amount of vaccine supply it receives. UTHealth will receive subsequent allocations from state and federal agencies until all employees, students, and trainees who have chosen to receive the vaccine have been given the opportunity to do so.

“In their relentless efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, our health care providers, research scientists, public health workers, and many more have demonstrated tremendous courage and compassion,” said UTHealth President Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, MD, Alkek-Williams Distinguished Chair. “We are pleased to begin the process of vaccinating those on the front lines of our pandemic response. This is a pivotal moment as we continue to do our part to flatten the curve.”

UTHealth has been preparing for the vaccine rollout since early November, when a group of nearly 30 representatives from across UTHealth’s six schools, as well as its clinical partners, began formulating a plan for the vaccine’s arrival in Houston.

“We’ve worked hard and called upon our brightest minds to develop a plan that ensures this vaccination is done in the safest, most efficient, and equitable manner possible,” said Andrew Casas, senior vice president of UTHealth and chief operating officer of UT Physicians, the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

The university has made detailed arrangements to make sure every dose is utilized – from proper transportation and storage procedures to vaccination scheduling.

“Every vaccine is potentially a life saved, and everyone has a role in ensuring appropriate use of our vaccine doses,” said George Delclos, MD, PhD, medical director at UT Health Services and professor at UTHealth School of Public Health.

Luis Ostrosky, MD, professor of infectious diseases and vice chair of Healthcare Quality at McGovern Medical School, said the vaccine has been rigorously reviewed and is safe.

“This is not a vaccine that was pulled out of a hat,” said Ostrosky, an infectious disease specialist at UT Physicians. “No shortcuts were taken. The vaccine has gone through clinical trials, testing, and regulatory review. They didn’t cut corners, just red tape.”

Teamwork between the university and its partners made it possible for UTHealth to offer the vaccine.

“The can-do attitude we’ve seen across all areas of the institution is amazing,” Casas said. “There is a universal commitment to meet the needs of our community.”

“We’ve been training for this,” said Denise Butler, medical assistant with UT Physicians. “Since June I’ve been responsible for COVID-19 testing in our community. Now, I get to see this through and be a part of history by administering this vaccine.”

The availability of vaccines is a major turning point in the pandemic, but some may be hesitant to take a vaccine brought to market through an emergency use authorization.

“I would ask that once members of our community receive the vaccine, and see that it’s well tolerated, that they become champions for others by encouraging their friends and family to also get vaccinated,” Delclos said. “That would really help us get as many members of the community vaccinated and do our part to reach herd immunity and eradicate COVID-19.”

The university’s equitable distribution algorithm is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). Front-line health care workers and vulnerable populations will receive the vaccine first. UT Physicians patients will be informed as soon as the vaccine is available in clinics. Please monitor your patient portal account and UTPhysicians.com for updates.

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